It was a teacher workshop session filled with surprises, including trips to the darkness of the women’s (rebranded unisex) bathroom to see our lighted projects working. The workshop I gave last Friday for teachers in the Charlotteville, Virginia, city school system was a successful attempt to combine a basic electric light circuit with a pop-up card. We began working through a series of pop-up structures, then built a circuit made of a lithium battery, copper tape, an LED sticker light, and a sliding paper switch to turn the light on and off as the card opened and closed. With the addition of a pop-up, we achieved lighted campfires, buildings, and creatures. The challenge for the teachers now is to work this into a lesson on paper engineering and electronics for their summer school students. Thanks to the Noyce Foundation for funding this project and to all who participated!
Lighted pop-up by Cam Ellis, Virginia Monroe and Desmond Cormier
My Corcoran paper engineering students have been cooking up a three-dimensional storm, with pop-up foods illustrating a recipe of their choice. Dishes represent an international fare, including Chilean causa rellena, Mexican churros, insalata di fagioli, chicken and cheese enchiladas, couscous tangine, cheese souffle and pop0vers. Then for dessert there are Nutella cookies and chocolate pudding pie. Who could resist? At the end of the semester we’ll be having a picnic with the real foods on the table.
My flight arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, Wednesday evening, and I had a beautiful drive from there to Concord where I was staying. Up early the next morning, I proceeded to Pittsfield and I had a great day working with a group of eight middle and high school teachers, exploring the subject of paper engineering and how it can be integrated into lessons on such varied subjects as math, science, reading and literature. We spent the day building pop-up models and discussing possible links to classroom curricula. I think everyone had a good time, as can be seen by the results here.
After school, art teacher Bill Mitchell and I visited the Pittsfield Youth Workshop where a group of young paper enthusiasts designed pop-ups of their own. They immediately came up with ideas for cards to give to people they knew.
Friday was spent with another group — elementary school teachers from various schools in the Pittsfield School District. The teachers had no problem linking the pop-up structures to lessons they could present in their classrooms, and appreciated the idea that designing pop-ups prepares kids from an early age for future work in three-dimensional design and mechanics. It was a fast-paced two days, and I’m anxious to hear how these teachers’ students respond to making pop-ups as part of future class projects. Thank you again for inviting me to Pittsfield Middle High School!
For the past two Mondays I traveled to Philadelphia to teach a special pop-up session for the students in Alice Austin’s book arts class at the University of the Arts. Despite bad weather, students showed up to try their hand at paper engineering. We made a series of models–pop-up platforms, props, V-folds, and other forms–which students can later use within the book formats Alice demonstrates over the course of the semester. I had a lot of fun with the students, and also enjoyed seeing my Philadelphia friends, Patty Smith, Mary Phelan, Susan Vigeurs, Sarah Van Keuren, and Lori Spencer.
I was childsitting over the weekend, and I usually spend an hour or two with the kids, making art. One of them decided to self-decorate her feet with my markers. Her “tatoos” were beautiful, reminding me of the henna tatoos that women draw on their hands and feet in areas of India, Pakistan, and North Africa, so we had a lively discussion about these beauty traditions and the various cultures that practice them. (See the Wikipedia article on henna dying)
Unfortunately she had grabbed a marker that leaves a fairly permanent mark, and afterwards we spent a half-hour in the bathroom, scrubbing away the damage. “I’m busted, ” she said. Still, it led to her making a wonderful little book on the subject, including two pop-ups: one of her feet and the other of her hands. Her older brother threatened to “bust her” by telling mom, but when mom came home, she was delighted with the book and thought my pictures of the foot drawings were wonderful.
My Sculptural Bookmaking class at the Corcoran College of Art + Design here in Washington, D.C., is in full swing, with nine students actively working on making pop-up accordion books this week. On Tuesday we covered cut-and-fold pop-up forms with extensions, along with spiral and straddle pop-ups. I also showed a slide presentation on the history of movable books. I’ll be keeping the blog up-to-date with the students’ ongoing projects.
This week I’m teaching a sculptural bookmaking class for the North Country Studio Workshops at Bennington College in Vermont. Despite the cold temperatures dipping below zero in the evenings, the studios are warm and welcoming. I have eleven industrious students who are working on their carousel books at the moment.
Bennington is a beautiful campus with a mix of traditional New England architecture and some strikingly modern buildings. We are enjoying sumptuous meals of freshly prepared vegetables, main courses, and too-tempting desserts. And the dormatories where we’re housed are light-filled and very comfortable.
Aside from my book class, there are classes running in drawing, metals, sculpture, ceramics, fabric arts, surface design, quilting, basketry and photography. Yoga flow classes led by Tracy Penfield are held morning and afternoon before and after classes. All this makes for a great creative environment with a lot of positive exchange between the participants. The volunteers for North Country Studios who work so hard over a two-year period to make this biennial event possible are to be heartily commended.